Thursday, September 20, 2012

Thursday is Back with the Key to Emotional Scenes

Sorry for not posting for the last few weeks. School has been crazy, and Thursdays have become my busiest days. I'll try to post more often now that I'm getting into a routine.
I love movies. I use the excuse that it helps with noticing plot structure and characterization, but really I just watch them because they are fun. I watch a lot of movies from my cable channels, so sometimes I catch a movie 30 minutes too late.
One thing I have noticed is that I don't care about the characters since I missed the "oh look at me I am so relatable" moment they had in the beginning.
One of the big tips I learned early on to make characters likable was to make them relatable. No I have never had my best friend eaten by my alien dog who speaks Portuguese. I doubt you have either (but if you have, I would so buy your memoir), but I can relate to losing my best friend. That tiny thread can keep me attached to your character.
This is especially big in music. Some songs are so popular because people can relate. Airplanes wasn't just popular because of its catchy lyrics. I might not have thought about planes being shooting stars, but I have been desperate for something so strongly that I would bargain for it. People can relate. Think Taylor Swift. I think every girl can point to one of Taylor Swifts so and go "been there".
You want your reader to connect with your emotional scenes and go "been there" no matter how out there your story world is. Those "been there" moments can grow a stronger bond between your character and your readers.
Whether you are 2 pages in or 200 pages in, make your characters emotional scenes relatable to your reader.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Wednesday Loves Fall

So, I have a challenge for you guys. I want you to write me something (story, poem, song, whatever) about fall. Why? Because I love fall. If you're a daring soul who decides to take me up on this, I'd love to see what you've written. Post in the comments or send me an email at Here's the catch-- it has to include one of these things:

✦ a spilled cup of tea

✦ exes accidentally meeting in a graveyard

✦ a boy who can't stop raking leaves

✦ a favorite sweater with a hole in the elbow

✦ hot chocolate & a walk through the woods

✦ a ghost haunting a Homecoming dance

✦ an oak tree

✦ a talking raven

✦ a book with the last ten pages missing

✦ a power-outage

✦ a Bon Fire

I will write something too, just to be fair. I'll post a link to it on here next week. Good luck.


Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Tuesday on Song & Character

When I write, I don't listen to music.

When I do listen to music, I want to sing along.

When I want to sing along, I want to sing along for a reason.

When there's a reason to sing along, a song has character.

Therefore (and we have some transitive property happening here), I like to listen to music with character. (And I don't listen while I write because I need to focus on my own characters.)

"Character" doesn't necessarily mean that the song literally is about (a) character(s) (though that usually works--see Roxanne by The Police and Eleanor Rigby by The Beatles). For me, a song with character has some sort of meaning--whether I am intrigued by a story being told (see Skullcrusher Mountain by Jonathan Coulton and The Downeaster "Alexa" by Billy Joel) or the song reminds me of a favorite TV show (see "every song ever used in Supernatural").

And when I like a song and its lyrics I like to learn them and sing along, whether out loud (see "when I'm alone/with my sister in the car") or in my head (see "every time other than the aforementioned two circumstances").

The same characteristics that I find intriguing about songs I also find intriguing about stories. Character. Meaning. So what does your favorite song say about your favorite book?

Happy Tuesday!


Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Wednesday And Time Traveling Puritans (Not Really)

Now, don't get me wrong. The best thing you can do if you're really going to write that 800 page novel about a time traveling Puritan rock band is just sit down and make yourself write, but that doesn't mean you should spend an hour and a half staring at your blank computer screen crying. When you've first started a piece of writing and you get to that initial point (say, the second sentence or so) where you have no idea what to write, you should take a fifteen minute research break.

The research doesn't have to be historical research, unless you're writing historical fiction. In that case, you should do a lot of research. A ton. An enormous amount. For those of us whose books are set in the present, or in a different dimension, or in a futuristic dystopia, there are still things to research.

Start with your characters. I like to make profiles for all my main characters. I change them as I write, but they're a good basis to have so I feel like I'm writing about someone I know, not making them up as I go along. I try to know everything-- their scars from bike accidents, their favorite jacket, their favorite ice cream flavor, their pet peeves, and even their bad habits or weird mannerisms. Details like that can make a character seem more real.

If you're as weird as me, you can even take personality tests as your characters (try a Myers-Briggs test or the one on These are ridiculously interesting and give you new insight to why a character might do something, especially if the character is particularly different from you.

After you have a good idea of who your characters are and what drives them to do what they do, you can research setting. If your character lives in a real, currently existing city, they probably know it pretty well. That means you have to know it well too. Print out maps. Where are their favorite places? How do they get to school? If your setting is imaginary, make maps for yourself. I still have a box full of maps of imaginary neighborhoods and houses that I drew for every story I made up. I hid them under a post on our porch and found them years later looking as disheveled and creepy looking as 7 year-old me could have wished.

Sometimes, I have trouble fixing my characters' appearances in my head. When this happens, I'll write a paragraph just describing the way I see them in my head. Then I will sometimes find a picture of someone who looks like what I imagined to help solidify the image in my head.

I wish you all good luck in your researching and writing, but I'm going to have to end here to go do actual historical research for my actual A.P. U.S. History test on Friday. If I miss another post there is a 90% chance it is because of that class. Or maybe time traveling Puritans.


(sleep-deprived) Caroline.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Tuesday on more school survival (aka writing for school)

Okay, I'll admit it:

I hate homework.

Oh, wait. If you know who I am, you probably already know that. I've mentioned it a few times.

(Or a few thousand times.)

But here's the thing--sometimes homework is writing. And in the midst of a million hours of homework for a million classes and the irony of not being able to keep up with news (like watch the RNC and the DNC because school's started and you don't have time for "current events"anymore) because you have to do other forms of dictated education during your free time in addition to the EIGHT HOURS ALREADY SPENT IN THE ACTUAL LEARNING INSTITUTE AND--

Wait, I lost my point.

Oh! Right. Sometimes homework is writing, and in the midst of the aforementioned homework, you might sometimes (always) feel like spewing random words on a page just to get it over with already.

I do not recommend this.

And yes, clearly, I see your homework pain and raise you some angst and complaining! But an opportunity to write is an opportunity to write--and you might just crank out something you're proud of and use it to enter contests or launch a novel or pound out your feelings in a lengthy, well-cited essay. (All have actually happened to me. I am the example here.)

So don't let homework win. Have fun writing anyway.

Happy Tuesday!